With over 83 years of service since its establishment in 1936, Sri Lanka Red Cross Society through its branches in 25 districts all over the island has provided an invaluable service of protecting lives of the people of this country. World First Aid Day falls on September 14 this year which creates an opportunity to focus attention on the promotion of first aid to ensure that everyone would know how to save a life as intended by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The World First Aid Day was introduced in 2000. The Health Capsule speaks to Jayabuddhi Gnanathilaka, Senior First Aid Instructor of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, to shed light on the importance of first aid not only to a person, but to the country as a whole.
Services offered by Red Cross Society
Sri Lanka Red Cross Society covers five core areas. This includes health services, disaster management, promotion of human values, organizational as well as livelihood development. First aid is the core activity practiced under health service. Sri Lanka Red Cross extends its services in three ways. It provides first aid training to volunteers, first aid services especially mobile first aid facilities during disaster emergencies and national events such as Kandy, processions at Kataragama , Independence Day celebrations, cultural and religious events where people gather at large. According to Gnanathilaka, they also provide first aid material specially kits that cater to the different needs of the people covering domestic purposes, vehicles, companies, which follow the law regulations indicated by the factory ordinance of Sri Lanka.
Volunteers in training
Red Cross aims to develop the capacity within the public so that they themselves are able to respond during emergencies and disaster situations. This knowledge will prove quite useful to help in saving more lives following an accident. Under the first aid training component of the Red Cross society, there are two types of training that the organization provides. “Free training which trains volunteers and selected members of communities and villages prone to disaster (e.g. A village susceptible to floods). This creates a team of first aid providers within the village itself which is able to respond during disasters and provide first aid should the necessity arise. The training allows a quick response to first aid emergencies by trained volunteers who provide voluntary humanitarian services to the beneficiaries. Red Cross provides the opportunity to get hands on experience and knowledge about first aid provision. The training opportunities include the junior first aid course which is provided to school children, community training to communities and villages, basic training which trains entry level volunteers and advanced first aid training. Once the appropriate training is successfully completed, volunteers are recruited as capable trainers and instructors who are replete with the relevant first aid competencies,”said Gnanathilaka. “Secondly a commercial training is provided to factories, companies, government and non-government institutions in order to train employees to respond to occupational hazards and accidents,”he mentioned.
A frequently asked question is why everyone should be educated in first aid treatment? Management of the situation brings a solution to health accident, sick emergencies and disasters. Accidental emergencies increase especially due to road accidents. The daily mortality rate on average due to road accidents is 8 people per day. Mortality due to accidents like falls, fractures, etc is as high as 38 deaths per day. This accounts for 14,000 deaths annually within the country caused due to accidental emergencies. Out of the 14,000 lost lives, 10,000 die before they reach the hospital and receive the necessary treatment. 15,000 deaths occur annually due to sick emergencies which include heart attacks, asthmatic attacks, etc. Annually 270,000 children are admitted to hospitals following accidental emergencies. These may include dog bites, snake bites, poisoning, burns, choking, drowning, road accidents, etc.
“These deaths could be reduced and more lives saved if the bystanders who witness these accidents are capable of providing first aid.
When a person stops breathing as a result of a heart attack, choking, drowning, fall or other accident, 10 minutes is all you may have to restore back the person’s breathing and save a life. On average it takes 20 minutes by an ambulance to transport a patient to the hospital. The person’s life can be lost within this time due to the immediate lack of treatment,” stated Gnanathilaka. Therefore the knowledge on first aid is very important. If a family member meets with an accident, the only option a lot of people resort to is to either make a call and wait for an ambulance or transport the patient to the hospital. When a person falls unconscious his or ger airways are blocked and breathing gets obstructed. Positioning the patient incorrectly due to lack of knowledge could threaten the life of the patient. However with a simple first aid technique i.e. tilting the patient’s head, lifting the chin and keeping the neck straight will allow free flow of air without obstruction. This simple action would make a difference between the life and death of a patient. First aid can be performed by anyone. There are simple techniques. However not everyone is equipped with proper first aid knowledge. In developed countries first aid knowledge is compulsory and provided at school level.”95% of the population in a developed nation would be competent in first aid. However this is not the case in our country where it is only limited to as less as 1%,” he mentioned.
Strengthening the first aid force
This year’s theme for World First Aid Day is ‘First aid and excluded people’ which directs attention towards groups that feel excluded from society. “There are three sub themes under the major theme includes ‘Every life is important’ where the knowledge of first aid without discrimination to preserve life is highlighted. Everyone in society has the potential to learn first aid and preserve a life. First aid education should be open to all. This year’s theme reaches out to people who feel excluded from society. This includes senior citizens, prisoners, people suffering from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, street urchins, labourers, children from orphanages, displaced people, migrants, transgender, minor cast and creeds as recognized from the Red Cross,” he informed. First aid education is not only provided to them but their caretakers as well. Psychosocial aid is also provided to ensure everyone is a part of
This year the Red Cross Society focuses on five areas to develop first aid awareness in the country. “An emphasis on the importance of first aid and for everyone to obtain a first aid training is made through the society’s efforts this year. Making first aid education compulsory in schools and first aid knowledge compulsory for drivers and everyone with a driver’s license, provision of a first aid training for the staff with every ,institution, factories with heavy machinery are part of the endeavours for raising awareness eithin the island for world first aid day this year . Currently the country’s law has not made legal coverage for first aid practitioners mandatory. Consequently people are reluctant to provide first aid even if they possess sufficient knowledge on the matter,” said Gnanathilaka. Thereby through implementation of legal reinforcements, first aid awareness would strengthen and effectively contribute towards saving more lives through unfortunate accidents.